21First Day Nissenson4 21First Day Nissenson4-Paul Nissenson speaks to his ME4150 class on the first day of classes at Cal Poly Pomona August 19, 2021.

Campus community discusses faculty struggles, union proposals

By Maria Flores and Nadia Urbina, Nov. 2, 2021

With negotiations between the California Faculty Association and the California State University declared to be at an impasse last month, Cal Poly Pomona’s faculty members now await to see if the union’s proposals — including a salary raise — are met by the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

The CPP community discussed the impact and necessity of the proposals as faculty have continued to navigate the struggles of remote instruction.

Alumnus Alexis Ramirez Ruiz (’20, political science), a Cal State Fullerton higher education master’s student and Educational Opportunity Program assistant, acknowledged professors’ responsibilities throughout the pandemic.

“We see professors and then we only see they’re teaching classes, but we don’t see the other things they do,” said Ruiz. “A lot of professors have their professional and personal lives. They have to develop the curriculum that’s taught inside the classrooms, serve in committees, conduct research and do assessments. It’s a lot of things that they do, but I hope that their pay is equivalent to the work they do.”

The CFA has advocated for 4% raises for the 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years; the CSU countered with a 2% raise for 2021-22.

Frances Mercer, CFA member and assistant professor in the Biological Sciences Department, stressed the importance of the union’s salary proposal.

“A lot of the proposals for the new contract are really basic things just to ensure we are not getting a pay cut every year,” said Mercer. “Compared to last year, on average everything is at 4% more expensive including your rent, mortgage payment, cell phone bill and car insurance.”

In addition to higher salaries for faculty, the CFA has also proposed for a fair parking equity campaign to have an equal parking fee for faculty and students, a student-to-counselor ratio proposal to hire more academic and mental health counselors for students and a parental leave policy to offer a full semester of paid leave for faculty.

The CFA delivered proposals throughout 2020, a time when faculty members dealt with the added burden of transitioning to online learning, and for Cal Poly Pomona faculty, a new learning management system. ASI Officer of Academic Affairs Diana Aguilar recognized the difficulties faculty had with transitioning to Canvas.

“For example, my physics professor got used to using Blackboard and other platforms. This is his first time using Canvas; I can see how he has been struggling a lot and it could be due to many reasons. Maybe because he is barely introduced to this platform, he probably didn’t do the training, or he did and it wasn’t enough for him,” said Aguilar.

Due to the unprecedented learning environment, more responsibilities and increased enrollment last year, Mercer described the difficulties of allocating as much time for student advising.

“We were so busy converting these courses over and taking these pedagogy classes, figuring out how to use Canvas and figuring out how to grade things electronically,” said Mercer. “All these things we had less time to devote to those one-on-one student meetings.”

Currently, the CFA and CSU’s negotiations are in a stage called fact-finding, where a third party reviews the CFA’s proposals and the CSU’s counterproposals. The third party will determine if the proposals are reasonable and fair. According to Mercer historically when CFA reaches the fact-finding stage, they are successful.   

“We love our jobs, we love teaching and we fought so hard to be able to come back on campus safely,” said Mercer. “If the chancellor’s office can’t honor our proposals and come back with something we think is adequate, then we would start to get strike ready.”

Feature image courtesy of Tom Zasadzinski

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